Germany has extended its lockdown measures for another month and imposed several new restrictions in an effort to curb a surge in coronavirus infections driven by new variants.
Speaking in the early hours of Tuesday after a lengthy video call with the country’s 16 state governors, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the restrictions that were previously in effect through March 28 will now remain in effect until April 18.
Public life during Easter will be largely closed.
Coronavirus infections have risen steadily in Germany as the most contagious variant first detected in Britain has become dominant.
“We basically have a new pandemic,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
“Essentially we have a new virus, obviously of the same type but with completely different characteristics,” he added. “Significantly more lethal, significantly more infectious, and infectious for longer.”
At their last meeting three weeks ago, the two sides agreed on a multi-step plan to relax the restrictions.
Since then, several states have tried to avoid returning to stricter lockdowns when the weekly number of new infections exceeds 100 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days.
Merkel made it clear that she would not accept it.
“Unfortunately, we will have to use this emergency brake,” he said.
The weekly infection rate per 100,000 people stood at 107 nationwide on Monday, up from the mid-60s three weeks ago.
Officials agreed to largely shut down public life from April 1-3, add a public holiday, and close most stores during the period. Public gatherings will be banned from April 1-5 to encourage people to stay home.
Amid concerns about the increase in Germans traveling abroad during the holidays, authorities also agreed on a general requirement for air travelers to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Germany.
Drafting legally tight rules has proven to be a headache at times. A court in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, said on Monday it repealed rules that require people to get appointments to visit stores. He said they violated the requirement that companies receive equal treatment.
The state government quickly reinstated the rules, tightening them for some businesses, such as bookstores and garden centers, that were previously exempt.
Under Tuesday’s agreement, authorities will aim to offer free tests to all students and teachers in German schools, many of which have recently reopened after months of remote teaching.
Vaccine campaign lagging behind
Merkel said Germany, which had relatively few deaths during the first phase of the pandemic last spring, has seen “successes but also setbacks” and insisted the situation will improve as more people get vaccinated.
So far, Germany’s vaccination campaign has lagged behind expectations, with only around 9% of the population receiving at least a first injection and 4% receiving both doses on Sunday.
“It’s difficult for longer than we think,” Merkel said. “But there is definitely visible light at the end of the tunnel.”
Headache by AstraZeneca
When asked about the EU’s plans to restrict the export of vaccines and components, Merkel said she supported the efforts of the bloc’s Executive Commission to ensure contracts are honored, citing supply problems the EU has had with. your AstraZeneca injection.
Britain, which left the EU last year, has vigorously protested the plans, fearing deliveries will be cut off.
Merkel said that both she and French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the issue in recent days and that EU leaders would aim to reach a decision “responsibly” in a virtual summit on Thursday.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism